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How to send anonymous and secret emailsLooking for a secret, privacy-first email address for sensitive communications? You’ve come to the right place.
Email is the most ubiquitous form of communication today - over four billion people in the world use Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail, and other providers to communicate. The first email systems were created in the 1960s, and they were used primarily by academics and the military. In 1971, the first email message was sent from one computer to another. Email became more widely used in the 1970s, as more people started using computers. Email became even more popular in the 1980s, as personal computers became more common. In the 1990s, email became a staple of business communication. Today, email is used by billions of people around the world. But, how can email be used to send emails with total secrecy?Yet, these major email providers lack substantial privacy protections, monetize user data, and frequently collect other sensitive information using trackers (IP addresses, email content, or worse). A new world of privacy-first email providers has emerged, including Skiff, Proton, Tutanota, and more. At the same time, additional services, including SimpleLogin, Anonaddy, DuckDuckGo, and Apple have offered email forwarding services designed to keep your login email address secret.
Creating an anonymous emailOne basic requirement of creating an anonymous email account is choosing an email provider that collects no personally identifying information on signup and account creation: No existing email address, no phone number, no real name, or anything else.There are a few web-based services that are purpose-based for sending anonymous emails from an account that is temporary or completely disposable. Generally, these services require you to create an account and then you can send emails through a web interface. Some popular web-based services that offer this feature are Anonymouse, Hushmail, and Send Anonymous Email.However, this article examines numerous other considerations you may have when trying to communicate with someone in total secrecy. These include email privacy policies, email encryption, email aliases, and completely disposable accounts that may expire after a certain period of time.
Using a VPNA VPN, or virtual private network, is a secure tunnel between your device and the internet. When you use a VPN, all of your internet traffic is routed through an encrypted tunnel so that no one - including any parties trying to listen to or collect data on network connections - can see what you’re doing online. This is especially important when you’re using public Wi-Fi, since hackers can easily intercept data on such networks if it’s not encrypted.A VPN is also a great way to bypass internet censorship. If your country has strict internet restrictions, you can use a VPN to access blocked websites and content. Finally, a VPN can improve your online privacy by hiding your real IP address. This makes it much harder for advertisers and other third parties to track your online activity. When trying to send a secret or anonymous email address, a VPN can be quite helpful, particularly if you choose a less privacy-friendly service provider, which may collect IP address information.
Downloading a private web browserThere are a number of ways to browse the web privately and bypass potential trackers. Incognito windows are one of the best ways to keep online activity private. When you use an incognito window, browsing history and cookies are not saved. This means that anyone who has access to your computer will not be able to see what websites you have visited or what you have been doing online.A broader recommendation for sending anonymous and secret email is to use a privacy-first web browser, such as Firefox or Brave. Both browsers can be configured for maximal privacy, including disabling tracking cookies, blocking tracking scripts, and more. Firefox and Brave are also open-source, which can yield greater trust in their privacy-protecting services.
Creating a disposable email accountAnother popular method for sending anonymous emails is using a completely disposable email address. This is a temporary email address that you can use for a single email. Once the email is sent, the address is no longer valid. This is a good option if you don't want to create an account with a web-based service. Some popular disposable email address providers are 10 Minute Mail, Guerrilla Mail, and Mailinator.Disposable email accounts can be useful when you want to protect your privacy or when you do not want to receive any emails from the website or service after you have used it. However, most disposable email accounts are created for temporary use and are not good fits for any extended or back and forth communication. Below, we discuss how you can use email alias software to connect additional email addresses to one main account, or more comprehensive, privacy-preserving email accounts that protect your privacy in all dimensions, including personal data, IP address, and more.
Connecting email aliases to your main email accountEmail aliases are a great way to protect your privacy by creating a separate email address that can be used for communication that you don't want linked to your primary email address. This can be especially useful when signing up for online accounts or communicating with businesses. By using an alias, you can keep your primary email address private and only give out the alias when you need to.This section briefly walks through some services that allow you to anonymously forward emails from a secret, disposable email address to a main email account.
- Apple’s Hide My Email feature can generate a random, anonymous alias that you can use to forward mail to your main account. This feature is built into iOS and Apple devices - so, for iPhone users, you may want to try it out; Android users may want to consider some of the options below.
- SimpeLogin provides an easy-to-use service for creating email aliases that forward to a main account. Just like “Hide My Email,” you’ll be able to generate additional disposable addresses that share no information with providers about your main email account.
- DuckDuckGo email forwarding is branded as a relay service from a random @duck.com account to your primary, personal inbox. Technically, it operates quite similarly to Apple’s service.
Using private email servicesWhen signing up for an anonymous or secret email, using a privacy-first email provider is your best bet for anonymous or secret email. Whether you are interested in keeping your email subjects and content private, or you want to block email trackers, this section outlines some of the many reasons why private email providers are an excellent fit for anonymous communications.Email encryption is a critical part of maintaining email secrecy. There are many circumstances when you may prefer encrypted email. One reason is if you're sending sensitive information that you don't want anyone else to be able to read. This could be things like financial information, medical records, or something else that you wouldn't want to fall into the wrong hands. Another reason to use encrypted email is if you're worried about someone snooping on your messages. This could be a concern if you're a journalist or activist, for example, or you simply want to send anonymous or secret emails to other individuals. Finally, you might also use encrypted email simply to keep your messages private from your employer or other people who have access to your inbox.While most providers maintain access to email content (including Gmail, Outlook, and most of the largest email service providers), privacy-first email options now employ end-to-end encryption to keep your email content private to you. Some of the most popular end-to-end encrypted email services include ProtonMail, Tutanota, and Skiff - which encrypts both email content and subject lines. Today, hundreds of millions of people choose end-to-end encrypted email providers to maintain secrecy of their personal information.Privacy policies and terms of service are also important to review. Particularly if you are looking for a free account, some providers may impose aggressive conditions on users, such as showing advertisements or generating suggested products based on your email content. Some older email providers - Yahoo, AOL, and Hotmail - should be rigorously vetted given the advertisements they use. You will want to vet policies for data retention, access to user data, sale of all user content, advertisement targeting, and other data collection policies.CCPA/GDPR: Depending on your location, you may want to consider your providers’ compliance with global privacy legislation - namely the GDPR and CCPA. The EU's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and California's new Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) both went into effect in 2020, establishing strict new regulations around data privacy. The GDPR applies to any company that processes the personal data of EU citizens, regardless of where the company is located. The CCPA applies to any company that does business in California and collects the personal data of California residents. Both laws give individuals the right to know what personal data is being collected about them, the right to have that data erased, and the right to object to its use. In any anonymous email service, you may want to consider data retention or deletion obligations under the CCPA, GDPR, or other privacy legislation.
Avoiding email trackersEmail trackers are small pieces of code that are embedded in emails that allow the sender to see when and how many times the email has been opened. This information is then typically used to track opens, test email marketing campaigns, or understand open rates by time, location, and device. Email trackers generally work by inserting a small, invisible image into the email. When the email is opened, the image is downloaded from the server and the tracker is able to record when and how many times the email has been opened.When sending anonymous or secret email, email trackers can lead to a significant invasion of privacy. For example, imagine if an email recipient embeds a tracking image in a reply or conversation; this could de-anonymize all other conversation recipients by tracking open IP address, open time, or more information on conversation participants.
Tips for sending anonymous emails
- Use a privacy-first email provider. Using a private email service will immediately yield benefits on anonymity and data collection. Furthermore, if you choose an email provider with end-to-end encryption (with some example providers listed above), even the email service provider will not have access to your messages or subject lines.
- Use a web-based service or disposable email address to keep your identity hidden. Using mobile apps can lead to additional user data collection via your device settings.
- Do not share any personally identifying information on signup. Some email providers may guide you to share another email address or a phone number. For total privacy, create a new email address from scratch.
- Use a VPN service to further protect your identity and location. VPNs are generally good practices for all internet traffic beyond email and communication.
- If possible, avoid using your personal computer or device to send the email. In some cases, apps may try to perform “browser fingerprinting,” which may unwittingly lead to de-anonymization.
- Use a private web browser. Just like using a private email service, using a private web browser enables better default settings to protect against possible tracking, fingerprinting, IP address collection, or other invasive practices.
- Be careful about the information you include. If you share personal information, your email is no longer anonymous.
ConclusionSending an anonymous email doesn’t need to be difficult. With the right basic practices - and choosing a privacy-first email provider, you can preserve your privacy and anonymity while communicating with others. In particular, best practices include using a VPN, privacy-first web browser, and end-to-end encrypted email product. We recommend trying Skiff, which protects your email content, subjects, attachments, and more with end-to-end encryption; Skiff also blocks image trackers and requires no personally identifying information to sign up.
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